Premchand is one of the most outstanding figures in twentieth-century Hindi literature. His novels and short stories dealing with the lives of everyday heroes have attained the status of classics. His work continues to be rediscovered and to captivate new generations of readers in India and abroad. The inhumanity of caste hierarchies and the plight of women stirred his indignation and remained constant themes through his work.
This omnibus brings together a range of his short stories, a genre he pioneered in Hindi literature, and two of his women-centric novels. Also included is an essay by Premchand on the aim of literature, translated especially for this volume. Francesca Orsini introduces readers to these works in an essay describing Premchand's impressive craft of reworking contemporary debates in fictional form.
The stories in The World of Premchand, translated by David Rubin, are characterized by compassion for the poor and outrage at the cruelty of the privileged classes. There are vivid and dramatic portrayals of tradition-bound villages and towns, the turmoil of the Independence movement, and the violent clash of new and old ideas. In Widows, Wives and other Heroines, Premchand focuses on the position and role of women, as well as on other socially relevant issues such as middle-class values and aspirations, poverty and the clash between democratic stirrings and a strongly hierarchical society.
The novel Nirmala, translated by Alok Rai, is a classic text of the woman as victim. Nirmala's father is unable to pay dowry and therefore marries her to an elderly lawyer with three sons. It was originally serialized in a women's journal and was a huge success in its time, being perceived as a progressive indictment of a corrupt patriarchal society. Gaban, translated by Christopher R. King, tells the story of a woman's excessive love for jewellery and a series of tragic events that unfold as an outcome of her obsession. The novel showcases Premchand's deeply-held views on the ills of his own Kayasth community.
The Oxford India Premchand is a delightful book for avid readers of Premchand and for enthusiasts of Indian literature and culture.
About the Author:
Premchand (1880-1936) was a pioneering figure in modern Hindi literature. He was one of the initiators of realism in Indian fiction and introduced the genre of the short story in Hindi. With social themes and character studies, he set the standard for writers who followed.
David Rubin has spent many years teaching Indian Literature at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College. Alok Rai is professor of English at the University of Delhi and Premchand's grandson. Christopher R. King retired as associate professor of history and communication studies, University of Windsor. He is currently translating Premchand's Rangbhumi. Francesca Orsini is lecturer in Hindi at the University of Cambridge.
Experts from Reviews:
'Premchand can be humorous and ironic, somber and heart-rending in his depiction of the multifarious realities of his time without yielding up the thread of social comment that runs
through almost all the stories
The stories in this selection are
a delight and a revelation.'
- Indian Review of Books.
'This collection reminds us that
pioneering in his efforts at a realistic appraisal of Indian family life and its pivot, the woman as mother or wife.'
'Before Premchand, Hindi fiction avoided addressing uncomfortable social questions
He lifted fiction to the level of realism.'
'The subtle hues of village life, the intricacies and complexities of human emotions, the helplessness of being caught in the web of life, the struggles of survival and existential truths have all been well incorporated and translated
'The translations are done with commendable skill.'
-Manoj Das, The Hindu
Introduction by Francesca Orsini
PART I: SHORT STORIES (translated by David Rubin)
Introduction to The World of Premchand
Introduction to Widows, Wives, and Other Heroines
Nirmala (translated by Alok Rai)
Gaban: The Stolen Jewels (translated by Christopher R.King)
Appendix: The Aim of Literature by Francesca Orsini
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